Two Greatest Pianists Differed in Style

two greatest pianists

Two Greatest Pianists Differed in Style. How different can pianists be and still be on a par? This question is inspired inspired a quote from a quote:

  • Henry Pleasants. a music critic from Philadelphia once asked Rachmaninoff: Who are the greatest of the living pianists.
  • Harold Schonberg, music critic for the NY Times  quotes Pleasants quoting Rachmaninoff in his own book, The Virtuosi: Classical Music’s Great Performers from Paganini to Pavarotti

The story goes: Rachmaninoff thought a bit. “Well, he said, there’s Hofmann…”and he thought a little bit more, …”and there’s me.”  Rachmaninoff did not say another word, as the story goes. The fame of Rachmaninoff as eclipsed that of Hofmann, but it is still worth looking into Hofmann’s  background and accomplishments: 

two greatest pianists
Hofmann seated at the piano in 1916

The Second of the Two Greatest Pianists

Josef Hofmann - Wikiwand
Josef Hofmann at Carnegie Hall

Josef Hofmann was born in Podgórze (a district of Kraków), in Austro-Hungarian Galicia (present-day Poland) in 1876. His father was the composer, conductor and pianist Kazimierz Hofmann, His mother the singer Matylda Pindelska. As a composer, Hofmann published over one hundred works,  under the pseudonym Michel Dvorsky.  Included two piano concertos and ballet music. In 1946, he gave his last recital at Carnegie Hall,  He made 151 appearances at Carnegie.  Retirement to private life in took place in 1948.

How Did the Two Greatest Pianists Differ?

 

 

Physically (1) Hoffman was short. Rachmaninoff was tall.  Hofmann was loquacious talking fluently, readily, and incessantly. Rachmaninoff  severe, stern, or gloomy in manner.  His appearance was stern and he wasted no words. Hofmann color his music; while Rachmaninoff projected strength, structure and form. Advance planning marked the music of Rachmaninoff. Spontaneity marked Hofmann’s style.

Conclusion

What I find amazing is that Rachmaninoff, as the story goes, (1) Mentions Hoffman before he mentions himself. (2)  He idolizes a polar opposite.  (3) Then again, the mind of a genius is not easy to understand. My main teacher was primarily Mischa Kottler. Rachmaninoff, in the 1920’s gave Mischa a recommendation to study in Paris with Cortôt.  Mischa then went and studied with Emil von Sauer.  Enjoy this youtube recording of Mischa playing the Minute Waltz.

Dec 28, 2013 – Uploaded by Joseph Beels

Chopin’s Minute Waltz, with a twist …

Happiest Unplanned Moment of My Life and Mischa Kottler – DSOWORKS

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